Hi, friends! I’m so excited to be back with another The Fantastic Flying Book Club tour post today for The Henna Wars by Adiba Jagirdar! I really can’t believe I got picked for this blog tour because it’s a hot one that’s on a lot of TBRs, so I died a little bit inside out of pure happiness because it’s such a privilege to be chosen 🥰 Huge thanks to the FFBC for organising these amazing tours and to the authors for making the eARCs available to us.
Be sure to click on the banner above to see the other bloggers on tour! 😊
The Henna Wars
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Release date: 12 May 2020
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, LGBTQ+
When Dimple Met Rishi meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this rom com about two teen girls with rival henna businesses.When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.
Flávia is beautiful and charismatic and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat choose to do henna, even though Flávia is appropriating Nishat’s culture. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush on Flávia, and realizes there might be more to her than she realized.
Adiba Jaigirdar is a Bangladeshi/Irish writer and teacher. She lives in Dublin, Ireland. She has an MA in Postcolonial Studies from the University of Kent, England and a BA in English and History from UCD, Ireland.
She is a contributor for Bookriot. Previously, she has published short fiction and poetry in various journals and anthologies.
All her work is aided by copious amounts of (kettle-made) tea and a whole lot of Hayley Kiyoko and Janelle Monáe.
Note: The (favourite) quotes (below) are taken from an advanced copy and are subject to change in the final copy.
Ever since I first saw the cover, I’ve been so looking forward to reading this book and I’m happy to say that I really enjoyed it! I wish this existed back when I was in school because I would’ve definitely related to it more, but saying that, I still found it very relatable as a 30-something-oldie. It was refreshing to read about a queer muslim girl living in Ireland, and I loved the diversity, the queer rep, the cultural rep and the discussions on appropriation and religious hypocrisy. I wouldn’t think all of this would work wrapped up in a YA romance, but it really did! Sure, there were some things that bugged me but on the whole of it, it didn’t make a big dent in my overall enjoyment.
I’m surprised to know this is Jaigirdar’s debut because I think she handled many sensitive topics very well and in an easy to digest and accessible way without losing any of the weight behind it. I also thought all of her characters were very authentic and believable–the teenagers acted and sounded very much like teenagers! The writing also took me on an insane emotional rollercoaster ride! I was constantly laughing at the banter between Nishat and Priti, but I was also swinging between anger, frustration, and sadness in turns. I love a book that can “make me feel the things” and this certainly didn’t fail in that!
I thought Nishat was an interesting MC. I wouldn’t say that I loved her character because her attitude frustrated me at times but she was also very relatable and I really felt for her and everything she went through in this book. It made me emotional because I understand that feeling of loneliness and wanting to fit in in school and a community, and to be accepted for who you are. My heart broke for her after she came out to her parents and they gave her the choice of either being who she was and losing them, or being a “normal Bengali Muslim girl” and keeping them “free of shame”. The religious hypocrisy was maddening but I’m also glad it was pointed out. While not always likeable, I thought she was a well portrayed teenager! The other characters don’t get much development except for Flavia, the love interest. I admit getting a little “insta-love” vibes from their romance which I’m not usually a fan of, but again they’re high schoolers and… I was pretty much the same? LOL I couldn’t really figure Flavia out though and I’m not sure I warmed up to her as much as Nishat. I loved her open relationship with her mother, but she was pretty hot/cold throughout the book, though I’m glad she took a stand in the end (not just for Nishat but for herself).
One of my favourite parts of the story was definitely the sibling relationship between Nishat and Priti; their sister-ship reminded me so much of my own with my sister and the wisecracks and banter between them really had me rolling with laughter at times. You can tell how much they love and support each other and I kind of wish that Nishat had been more considerate with Priti, especially when she herself realised she hadn’t been there for her but then still didn’t really step up. That said, their dynamic was really spot on and it made me like this book even more! Another aspect I really loved was the rep of Bengali culture, particularly with the food! I thought it was quite accurate with the “aunties”, “uncles” and weddings! Fun fact: I lived in Bangladesh for 9 years and even graduated from the American school in Dhaka, so reading about the food especially was like taking a walk down memory lane. It was wonderful and also made me desperately hungry!
In the end, everything was obviously resolved nicely although it was realistic as peoples prejudices didn’t all of a sudden change over night. I’m glad that Nishat got a good ending though because she really deserved it and it warmed my heart to see how Ammu took the steps to educate herself about LGBTQ+ people and issues. I think this is a book that I will definitely be adding to my physical shelves, not only because that cover art is gorgeous, but because I hope more people will read it! I’m very much looking forward to seeing what else Jaigirdar will come out with in the future 🙂
There is also a Giveaway (US/CAN only) which you can enter ➡here.
Have you read The Henna Wars or is it on your TBR?